All of the pictures of Xuanhau Steelworks were taken during a visit in January 2004.  Although the steelworks remains open
and operational all of the steam locomotives have been withdrawn and replaced by diesels.

The city of Xuanhau itself is approximately 180km west of Beijing and lies on the main railway line from Beijing to Datong.  
However the train service to and from Xuanhau is somewhat limited with two trains in the morning and a further two trains
in the afternoon.  Prior to my visit in January 2004 it was difficult to find much detailed information about this industrial
location apart from two fairly brief reports on the internet.  A contact in China telephoned the steelworks and obtained
permission for me to visit the plants although nobody actually challenged by presence during the two days I was there.  
Details of travel arrangements and accommodation can be found in my
trip report.

There are two plants in the city operated by the same company.  These lie on opposite sides of the main CNR line and are
about 3-4km apart.  The western plant is to the south of the main line and the eastern plant is to the north of the line so that
occasional trains between the two plants have to cross the CNR tracks.  About 20 SY's were used to shunt the works and to
bring raw materials to the site.  All seemed to be kept in particularly good condition with at least one locomotive sporting
brass bands around the boiler and several with decorated front ends.  The iron and steel plants were not as photographically
spectacular as Anshan or Handan but there were frequent workings and a variety of industrial backdrops to add interest to
the proceedings.
One of the more pleasing aspects of
the steam operation at Xuanhau
was the way in which the locos
were kept immaculately clean - a
stark contrast to Nanpiao which I
had just visited.

SY1541 brings a train of wagons
containing molten iron out from
under one of the four blast furnaces
located at the eastern plant.  The
molten iron is then taken by rail to
the steel mill.
Another clean machine!  My taxi
dropped me off at a road crossing
just inside the plant which provided
an excellent vantage point to
watch the movement of
locomotives and wagons on several
lines. The crossing keeper also
spoke astonishingly good and
totally self-taught English and was
able to keep me in touch with
operations in and around the local
area.  Here SY1462 is shunting a
rake of cauldron wagons to the
steel making plant at the eastern
SY0552 on a short train of loaded
coal wagons passing SY1528 which
is awaiting its next duty.  The
yellow building in the background
is the rail control building.  The
staff were delighted to show me
the main panel and to try to
explain how the system worked.  
Short wave radio kept the
locomotive crews in touch with
One of the nice things about a
relatively small industrial plant is
that there always seems to be
some sort of activity occuring -
a contrast to my visit to Huanan
where I spent an entire day
waiting for just two trains!

SY1528 standing in front of the
control tower for the eastern plant
with SY0552 in background
The steelworks at Zuanhau appears
to be fairly modern and is clearly
expanding. The rapid development in
Chinese economy has led to terrific
demands for both coal and steel and
in contrast to Europe, both industries
are flourishing. The site is therefore a
mixture of 'old industry' and the
much more modern buildings are
illustrated in this shot of SY0552.
Deeper inside the eastern plant
SY1541 shunts cauldron wagons
from another of the furnaces.  One
of the advantages of travelling alone
was that one tended to be fairly
unobtrusive and therefore able to
access areas that might be barred to
larger groups which are normally
'shown around' such sites by one of
the managers or a local guide rather
than being left to wander at will.
SY0552 heading out of the plant
towards the level crossing, having
shunted a rake of cauldron wagons
into the furnaces
Whilst watching SY0552 bringing a long rake of coal wagons past the control tower (above) I was approached by a young
female worker who spoke fluent English.  This is always a pleasant surprise and does have a habit of making life somewhat
easier!  Having explained that she was largely self-taught through watching English language programmes on Chinese
television, she was then able to tell me a great deal more about the site and its operations.  She explained that five engines
were stationed at the eastern plant and four allocated to the western plant.

When I enquired about other engines she referred to a third 'station' which she said was about 6km away.  I was certainly
unaware of any other steam operations in the area and expressed considerable interest.  She said this was the raw materials
plant and set about explaining how to get there by public bus and writing down the name of the plant.   She then offered to
take me there - an offer which I readily accepted.  I anticipated travelling by taxi but to my astonishment she proceeded to
don a crash helmet and drove me there on the back of her 125cc motorcycle while I clung on at the back with camera bag
over my shoulder and the wind in my hair!

Whether this is really a separate plant or the far end of the eastern plant wasn't entirely clear and I didn't have enough time
to fully explore this location.  However there were certainly locomotives there that didn't put in an appearance at the
eastern works so were clearly a separate 'brigade'.
I was dropped off at the plant by
my new 'friend' who had a brief
word with the security guards at
the gate and then left me to my
own devices.  Just inside the gate
were two locomotives on a
stabling point.  The locomotives
at the raw materials plant were
also kept in excellent condition as
demonstrated by SY1104 which
was awaiting its next duty.
The mountains at Jingpeng are
certainly spectacular for railway
photography but the industrial
landscapes of the steel making
plants have their own grandeur
and provide scenes which are
now just a fading memory in
Western Europe.  SY0323 shunts
a rake of coal wagons at the
coking plant at Xuanhau (above)
The western plant is far smaller than the eastern plant and has only two blast furnaces.  One of these blast furnaces receives
its raw materials via a ramp.  Wagon loads of coke and iron ore are contiuously shunted up and down the ramp by one of the
four locomotives to be found at this location.  SY1113 brings a rake of wagons loaded with molten iropn out from under one
of the two furnaces
(above whilst SY0299 is shown with a short train of raw material ready to be shunted up the ramp to
recharge the furnace
SY0299 is released from one rake
of wagons and goes in search of
the next set to shunt.  As with
most other railway systems the
crew were delighted that
someone should be interested in
their locomotive and their daily
operations.  It was not long
before I was invited up onto the
footplate of the engine to join
the crew as they propelled the
next rake of wagons up onto the
charging ramp.
SY1177 brings a long rake of
loaded coke wagons from the
CNR exchange yards.  Previous
reports suggest that from time to
time steam locomotives actually
cross the CNR tracks between
the two plants but I saw no such
movements during my two days
at Xuanhau.  As I was leaving the
plant a large Jaguar car swept
through the gates clearly
transporting a very senior
official.  I received a long hard
look followed by a broad smile
and a wave.  Perhaps it was a
well that he didn't ask for my
written permission to visit!
Appearances can be deceptive!  
Another of the locomotives was
SY0323 which was standing
against a blue painted wall -
something which makes it hard
to tell where wall ends and sky
It is ironic to think that the locos
that once served the works at
Xuanhau may themselves have
finished up being melted down in
blast furnaces in other parts of
China or even Xuanhau itself as
the demand for recycled iron and
steel seems to be insatiable.  
SY0299 has not appeared on
another system and so must be
considered to have been
withdrawn and cut up
My final morning at Xuanhau was rewarded with more fine weather, a last chance to capture this wonderful steam location
and also to say farewell to my English speaking friend.  In doing so I gave her a business card with my personal details and was
amazed some three or four years later to receive an email from her and subsequently from her son as well.  This was a
fantastic bonus and we have maintained a regular correspondence ever since.  I still hope to return to China at least one more
time to see the wonderful narrow gauge line at Shibanxi and will ensure that I make time to renew my acquaintance with
Yangfei and Baiyu.
SY 1525 brings a coal train from
the raw materials plant towards
the blast furnaces at the western
plant.  The coal (coke) will be
used to charge the furnaces
together with the iron ore and
limestone used in iron making.
SY1462 brings a short train of
molten iron from the blast
furnace area - a wonderful sight
which is now sadly confined to
the history books.
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